Did you know that there are websites that exist solely to viciously badmouth other websites? True fact. Actual adult humans dedicate hours on message boards to anonymously deriding sites like ours and the people who write for them, disparaging their work, appearances and opinions. Not only do they spend their time reading content they don’t even like, they spend even more time pouring scorn on that content for an audience of like-minded haters with nothing better to do, spitefully preaching to a really mean choir. And it’s not like they get paid for the time and effort they put into their vitriol, unless you find schadenfreude and confirmation bias to be a rewarding form of payment.
I avoid visiting these pits of despair, but a couple of friends have wandered into them out of morbid curiosity and reported back some of the cruel things said about me; mostly that I need to lose weight, that I should get my mole removed, and that I slouch too much. They are weirdly angry about how much I seem to slouch.
I don’t have to go to message boards to read comments about my posture. Attacks on physical appearance (not to be confused with criticism of technique, which is fair game) don’t fly on xoVain, but someone has to see these comments before they’re flagged or deleted, and sometimes that someone is me.
Just yesterday, in fact, on my article about lip plumpers, someone commented, "You should work on getting a neck before you work on getting lips." The only pictures in the article are product shots and close-ups of my lips, so this person had obviously seen other images of me in the past and had been waiting for the perfect moment to insult me.
The commenter was escorted out and given a medal for bravery.
Although the dig was hyperbolic--I do, in fact, have a neck--it actually hit home. My neck is neither long nor graceful, and it has started to look less long and less graceful in recent years. And there’s a reason for that.
Last year, at age 34, I was diagnosed with adult idiopathic scoliosis. It’s not known if my pediatrician missed it when I was a child or if something caused it to start happening later in my life, but my spine leans a little left in my lower back, and I have a pretty gnarly front-to-back curvature.
That’s why I look like I’m slouching, even when I’m standing up as straight as possible, shoulders back and down, head up.
Right above my butt, my spine curves frontward, and then arches out parallel with my boobs--as if I needed any more width in that area. But what bothers me the most is the hump between my shoulders. My neck appears to start several centimeters in front of it instead of being aligned with my back.
This kind of curvature, clinically speaking, is called kyphosis. But casually speaking, it’s called a hunchback.
The doctor who diagnosed me couldn’t confidently put his finger on a cause; he doubted it had anything to do with being busty or the weight I’ve gained over the last decade. But that’s why it’s called idiopathic: the cause is unknown.
Treatment options are pretty vague, too. Even though the doctor said weight gain probably didn’t cause it, some sources say weight loss may help. There are also special exercises that could help; I’m thinking of trying pilates and hopefully killing two birds with one stone. Although I’m in constant pain and even experience numbness in some areas, I don’t want to go on pain medication. Spinal fusion surgery is only for severe cases; my case feels like a big deal to me, but it’s not severe.
Even I’m anxious to work on my back, one of the reasons it’s been in the front of my mind is simply vanity--specifically, how it's limiting my hairstyle options.
Ever since I put away my winter coat, I’ve been thinking about the impending perspiration and how cutting my hair into a bob or short shag could mitigate some of the sweat discomfort as the weather gets warmer, not to mention give me a long-overdue change. I created a “haircut ideas” folder on my computer, of course, and filled it with photos.
About a week ago, however, while wearing a tank top and top knot in my apartment, I caught a glimpse of body profile as I walked past a mirror.
I can’t cut my hair short, I suddenly realized. The hunchback will be too obvious.
I had spent the last few weeks convincing myself that I could pull off a shorter haircut despite my face being its all-time-chubbiest, but that confidence was immediately cancelled out by the thought of not being able to hide that goddamn hump with my hair. Long hair has become a literal security blanket: it blankets the curvature, giving me a way to feel a bit more secure about my appearance.
As you can probably tell from the photos above, wearing my hair up isn’t a much more flattering option. It exposes the curvature just as much as short hair would. The only way I’ve figured out how to wear my hair up without feeling self-conscious is in a high-ish ponytail, so the ends dangle just past the most obvious part of the protrusion.
While I’m anxious for my back to look and feel better, I know changing it--if that’s even possible--will take a long time. In the short-term, however, I honestly don’t know what to do about my hair. I realize worrying about that, in the grand scheme of things, probably seems silly.
Actually, you know what’s silly? The inspirational material I found this past weekend in the season finale of Saturday Night Live. Host Andy Samberg played the titular character in a bit called…
I know, I know, it’s a completely ridiculous source of encouragement, and Samberg probably didn’t intend it to be anything close to that. But while I can’t be sure if my back will ever change or if I should cut my hair, in the really short-term--as in immediately--what I can do is focus on being confident in spite of my spine.
And continue avoiding message boards.